John Tucker Must Die! Long Live the New Creation of a Man!-Eva Fexy

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In “The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage,” Stanley Cavell claims that there is an intrinsic link between the comedies of remarriage and the feminist movement’s ideals and “inner agendas” of the time. Cavell states that through fantasy and a battle of the sexes, the films depict “the new creation of a woman, something I describe as a new creation of the human.” By analyzing the 2006 rom-com “John Tucker Must Die” (Betty Thomas), I will argue that the film reflects third-wave feminism’s agendas while complicating Cavell’s “new creation of a woman” claim by celebrating the relationship between traditionally-conflicting versions of womanhood and ultimately depicting a modern version of masculinity risen from the ashes of oppressive chauvinism, or death of John Tucker.

 “John Tucker Must Die” follows three polar opposite high school girls –the ambitious academic (Arielle Kebbel), popular cheerleader (Ashanti Douglas), and liberal activist (Sophia Bush)– as they use new girl Kate (Brittany Snow) to “destroy” their popular cheating ex-boyfriend John Tucker (Jesse Metcalfe) aka “the man.” Reflecting its era’s feminist movement, which attempted to correct previous waves’ exclusivity by emphasizing girl power and unity, the film’s comedy and romance centres less on heteronormative pairing and more on the unlikely bond between seemingly incompatible women. 

Moreover, while the three girls initially try to change Kate into the perfect feminine hybrid, her metamorphosis is quickly rejected as inauthentic. Instead, the film focuses on the girls’ attempt to makeover, feminize, and thus, humiliate John by adding estrogen to his drink (making him act hypersensitive) and tricking him into wearing lingerie. The film’s seemingly problematic conflation of the display of traditional femininity with death is complicated when John confidently embraces the pranks and is celebrated for his emotional intelligence, and imitated by his male peers for his risqué fashion choices. Ultimately the film’s embrace of third-wave feminism facilitates the creation of not only a new type of man (instead of “the new creation of a woman” Cavell describes) but a new kind of masculinity embedded in a celebration of femininity. 

 

Stanley Cavell, “Introduction: Words for a Conversation” and “Pros and Cons,” Pursuits of Happiness: The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage (Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 1981), 1-42.

3 comments

  1. I think this is an excellent case study to apply Cavell’s theory to, as it appropriates the reading into a more contemporary context. I particularly like your subversion of Cavell’s theory in how it can apply equally to both sexes, as most academic writing about romantic comedies tends to focus on the reconstruction of the female.

  2. First off, I love love love this film – it triggers my nostalgia for the early 2000s rom coms so hard. Such a classic. What I like about your post is that I never actually considered it from this angle. It is really easy to criticize how the film is problematic from the aspect that the film kind of illustrates hyperfemininity as a bad thing, however I really like your conclusion that it is really a celebration in ways of allowing men to be more feminine in their self-expression, and not shaming them for that.

  3. Comment to John Tucker Must Die! Long Live the New Creation of a Man!

    A wonderful analysis! I enjoy that you apply Cavell’s theory to more contemporary contexts. Enough with making women more man-like, it is time to celebrate womanhood by portraying it as something desirable by everyone! On the other hand, and perhaps on a less related note, I find it interesting that it is easier to find makeovers of men becoming more feminine than women transforming into more effortlessly-feminine selves. I once read that stripping women of makeup and accessories is less profitable than expanding the beauty market to men.

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